Have you ever heard someone give this piece of advice, “Just trust your own heart and you can’t go wrong”? Much too often people do just that and make terrible choices in their life. Too many follow their heart into an an adulterous marriage. Too many trust their heart into lustful relationships that destroy their soul. Too many trust their heart with false doctrines, false religions, and false teachers which turn us from them from the truth of God. If we can’t trust our own heart, then who or what can we trust?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
This verse explains how, even though the Almighty was fed up with Israel’s flagrant disregard for her covenant with him, she was able to convince herself that no harm would come her way. This profound text does more than that. It shows us how our own minds can work to rob us of God’s grace and send us careening blindly down the road that leads to spiritual death. Here is what it says:
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things
Jeremiah had seen plenty of evidence to confirm the Lord’s pronouncement about this. The hardness and deceitfulness of the people’s heart in his time kept them from yielding to the Lord’s will. It kept them from turning from their sin, and it convinced them that all was well when certain death lay just over the horizon.
Today many folks try to look inward for their insights into life and even for their knowledge of God. Several of the religious traditions of our time tell us this is where genuine knowledge of God is to be found. The Bible is foursquare against this notion. Dependable knowledge about God or even of ourselves cannot be discovered by looking within. The Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things. It is not a dependable guide in such matters. The heart is influenced by things like the deceitfulness of riches (Matt 13:22), the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13), the deceitfulness of lust (Eph 4:22). Scripture says that a deceitful witness speaks lies and not the truth (Prov 14:25). The human heart is such a witness. It cannot be trusted for spiritual guidance. Our guidance must come from outside of ourselves. That is where biblical revelation enters the picture. God’s revelation of himself and of his will for man in the Bible is essential precisely because of the deceitfulness of the heart. The word of God acts as a constant check against the cunning and devious ways of the heart.
The Heart Is Exceedingly Corrupt
This word means “morally degenerate, perverted, depraved.” The prophet had beheld the depravity of his own generation to the extent that he did not plead for mercy upon them, but only asked that he with his own eyes might see God’s judgment performed upon them: “Let me see your vengeance on them…” (Jer 20:12). In our day we have seen many mass murderers. These people illustrate how “exceedingly corrupt” the heart of man can become. That which is capable of such degeneracy, perversion and depravity, could never be viewed as a dependable source for human guidance. As the prophet elsewhere said: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23).
Who Can Know It?
The world we live in is filled with mysteries. There are so very many things which we do not understand and cannot comprehend. God’s word concludes this set of observations about the duplicity of the human heart with this question: “Who can know it?” Of course, it is immediately understood that God knows the heart (Jer 17:10), else he could not speak so authoritatively about the evils which lurk within it. As David advised his son, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. ” (1 Chron 28:9). The point is, that one cannot know what goes on within the mind of another man, nor if he permits himself to be deceived by his own ambitions, lusts and desires, can he even claim to comprehend his own mind. Thus, the Bible instructs us to “keep the heart with all diligence” (Prov 4:23).
In other words, stop trusting in your heart and start trusting in God’s Word for your spiritual guidance.